Theaster Gates – Can We Transform Our Community Through Art?

Theaster Gates – Can We Transform Our Community Through Art?

An Arts Incubator and the Arts + Public Life Project Make a Resounding Yes

I was watching a show on of all networks, the Bloomberg channel.   They were playing a show called Brilliant Ideas.  Now those of you that know me, and that went to my Film Innovation Lab know that I am fascinated by and passionate about innovation, especially when empowering filmmakers to be successful doing what they love.


So I am watching Brilliant Ideas and on comes Theaster Gates an artist from Chicago, Illinois.  And I have learned that you can’t fully appreciate art until you know the story behind it.  And when you know the story, and it is compelling, it draws you in, and that that is what truly connects people to art.   What intrigued me and inspired me, is that Theaster Gates doesn’t just want to tell a story, and a compelling story with his art.  He wants to transform his community and the world through art.  Watch here to see his compelling TED talk:  Theaster Gates at TED.  And to the people that believe,  it is possible for us to change our world.  I want to change the world through film.  And I want to create an incubator or accelerator of talented filmmakers from all over the world to come to Dallas, to hone their craft and most importantly learn how to make a living doing what they love.

It saddens me that there are so many amazing artists all over the world but so few understand business and so often give up on their dreams because they cannot sustain themselves financially through what they love.  What if we could empower them to be successful?  Well, that’s what I hope to do and was one of the big reasons I went Theaster Gates Arts Incubator and Arts + Public Life project right next to the campus of the University of Chicago.


Just from watching his TED talk and on the Bloomberg television show, Theaster seems like a humble man with a beautiful dream and vision.  And yes of course, a man who is driven.  Only a man who is driven could accomplish what he has.  These are the kind of people that I want to surround myself with in life, people I can learn from, people that can lift me up to a higher level. I was hoping to interview Theaster but he was out of the country during my visit.  And I happened to be in Chicago to see relatives for Thanksgiving.   I got to meet some of his staff and see the facility or project.


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At the Arts Incubator, they have a program where many talented artists apply and then a jury picks those who they believe are best candidates and will best fit into their program and very importantly, artists who will through their art. benefit the community in and around the city of Chicago.   Theaster wants to use art to transform run down neighborhoods and revitalize them, to breathe life into them again and create a safe a beautiful environment that will bring Chicago citizens back into these formally “bad” neighborhoods.

This is a guy who actually believes you can transform our world through art.  But he doesn’t just believe it, he’s gone out and done it.  He has transformed a run down, abandoned bank and turned it into a work of art, library, and place for the community to see and enjoy called the Stony Island Arts Bank.  He has created the Black Cinema House showing films from up and coming film artists and creating a community and place to see films and meet like-minded people.


In the same complex and next door Theaster and his team have transformed a former currency exchange and created a beautiful coffee house and cafe with a library to make a place where people in the neighborhood can have a safe place to meet and meet like-minded people, to create community.

Next door to that is the Bing bookstore,  where I met the curators Chris & Hamzu. Hamzu actually turned out to be an old friend of Theaster’s.  Both he and Chris we’re warm and welcoming and reminded me of the many great people I meet in the Dallas area all the time, passionate about what they are doing.


Chris told me that Theaster is creating a wine bar at the book store to create a new source of revenue and help bring people in to see the unusual collection of books that Hamzu and Chris have put together.  They also have a unique film screening room on the bottom floor of the facility.

I hope to create an accelerator in Dallas, Texas where amazing talent from all over the world can come, artists in film, TV, Web series, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Video Game Development.  A place where that amazing talent is mentored and taught how to be successfull financially, where they also can find resources for all the casts and crews and equipment they need and investors who want to invest in worthwhile and compelling films and media projects.  If you’d like to learn more about what I’m doing with Imagination Media, just write me.

This is all possible to those that believe.  And, to those who are willing to work their butts off for it.  🙂   Jeff